May the 4th Quarter be with you

The fourth quarter of the year is upon us and with it comes a myriad of images: football, fall leaves changing colors before giving way to snow, holiday parties and last-minute purchases. It also brings business opportunities ranging from back-to-school marketing to the holiday season and everything in between.

As we start the fourth quarter of 2018, it is a good time to make a list of your most important initiatives for the remainder of the year. This might mean moving projects to next year that have no chance of completion in the short timeframe. In addition to a robust work schedule, there’s also the added family pressures of the impending holiday season around the corner. Staying focused and structured will increase your productivity and allow you to maximize resources as the year ends.

What are your goals for the coming year?

The fourth quarter is a natural time to reflect on, and analyze, your business. Assess whether the business is where you want it to be, its prospects for the future, and what can be done to increase business in the upcoming year. As you reflect, set goals for the year to come.

Have you reviewed your cybersecurity recently?

This is a great time to review and improve your company’s cybersecurity procedures. Select a password manager that can secure your online accounts and help you avoid password fatigue. Clean up your digital footprint by deleting old accounts that may publicly reveal sensitive information. Be on the lookout for scams, such as phishing emails. The end of the year is a common time for cybercrime, as businesses are often understaffed, and tired employees are more likely to let their guard down and open a suspicious email.

Are you ready for holiday bonuses and year-end performance reviews?

Your employees are vital to the success of your company. The fourth quarter is a good time to prepare for end-of-the-year employee evaluations, so each team member knows where they stand and what you expect from them in the coming year. Keeping good records puts everyone on the same page, and it can also help you avoid the cost and hassle of employment disputes in the coming year.

End-of-year or holiday bonuses are a great way to boost morale and keep employees happy. However, it’s strongly recommended that bonuses are given in connection to performance reviews. If not, you miss an opportunity to reward performance and the bonus can quickly become a pay expectation. If all employees receive the same bonus, there’s a good chance that the higher-performing employees will be disappointed with the “fairness” of the process.

Are you feeling festive?

The fourth quarter is full of fun and seasonal festivities. Customers are visual and love businesses that get into the spirit and let their “seasonal personality” shine. You can add seasonal graphics to your website, decorate your storefront, and use holiday imagery in your promotions and posts. Help customers get that warm feeling (you know the one) when they enter your store or jump on your website. Take care, however, not to bring religious themes into the mix, as there is a diversity of beliefs out there. Be sensitive to this in your seasonal planning.

Finally – what can BCN help you with?

BCN Services has an experienced staff to help with the variety of day-to-day situations. Our objective is to help you, our valued client, to focus on your business needs and key priorities by freeing up time spent on employment issues and administration. We handle more than 150 Human Resources employment tasks, products, and services and strive to provide outstanding customer service and resources.

Contact BCN Services at 1-800-891-9911 if you have questions or need assistance.

ThomMoore_1002_4x6_10-2018

Thom Moore, Partnership Manager

Companies: Consider up-to-date tech tools for your employees

Most company owners and managers agree that recruiting costs have increased, high-quality employees are in high demand and short supply, and employees are their biggest asset. But companies often fall short when providing valued employees the tools and technology that they need to help them be successful. This is something that should be high on an employer’s priority list.

Today’s employees want to work in digitally savvy organizations and employers needing to attract and retain employees must provide the up-to-date technologies and tools that employees need, and want, in order to perform their jobs well.

While the average employer isn’t ready to have an artificial intelligence receptionist greet guests or have employees sign up for health care open enrollment at a kiosk, employers must implement technologies for a more connected, efficient and modern workplace.

Consider user-friendly systems. The market is saturated with software and technology “solutions” designed to perform whatever task a company desires. However, employers must vet these systems to ensure that their use doesn’t burden employees. If the systems aren’t user friendly, employees won’t use them.

This leads us to training. Many software systems boast “intuitive” solutions, but don’t let this claim lead you to skimp on training. Training is an important part of helping employees to feel connected to the systems and to each other. It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that an employee is successful in using any technology.

The ability to share screens is a great way to demo a product, to show off your website or train your employees. Slack, Webex, and GoToMeeting are all relatively inexpensive technology programs that can close a logistical distance by allowing employees to connect online.

Skype and Facetime are interactive programs that originated with personal use technology and have widened the possibilities of how people connect during the workday. What’s better than a face-to-face when you’re having a meeting with a remote client, employee or job candidate?

Keeping your employees engaged and enabled in today’s business requires that they have the tools and technology to make that happen. Fortunately, doing so is easier than it has ever been for the small employer.

Do you need help with employee training or with ideas for improving your business efficiency? The experts at BCN Services are here to help. Contact us for more information.

MarcusMerillat_6692

Marcus Merillat, IT Manager

Is it legal for employees to record in the workplace? It depends.

There have been a number of high profile news stories lately regarding audio or video recordings in the workplace, including recently released conversations from former White House special assistant Omarosa Manigualt Newman and a viral video of conditions at a Popeyes Chicken franchise in the metro Detroit area.

As an employer, this may have left you wondering if it is legal for your employees to record conversations with their supervisors or other coworkers. It depends on a few factors:

  • What is the law in your state? Most states, including Michigan, only require the consent of one party in a conversation to legally record. In other words, an employee may legally record a conversation they are a party to without giving the employer notice. This is known as “One-Party Consent.” There are 12 states, which require either “All-Party Consent” or “Two-Party Consent” to record a conversation, meaning that everyone involved in the conversation or phone call must give consent before any recording begins.
  • Does your company have a policy for workplace recordings? Many employers have company policies prohibiting the recording of conversations with managers, co-workers or customers. These policies are permissible as long as they are not overbroad and do not violate an employee’s rights under the National Labor Relations Act for protected concerted activities such as documenting unsafe working conditions or federal and state whistleblowing laws.
  • Does the recording contain private information? Even in a One-Party-Consent state, the disclosure of confidential information, such as information covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, may violate common law privacy rights.

Most employees have easy access to a recording device through a smartphone, so there are a few steps employers should take to minimize legal exposure:

  1. Train supervisors and managers who may need to have tough conversations with employees in performance reviews, disciplinary actions or terminations so that they are cautious in what they say and stick to the facts of the situation.
  2. Develop a workplace recording policy if you don’t yet have one and include it in your employee handbook. It should define legitimate business reasons for the policy (for example, protection of proprietary information) and should not allow an employee to reasonably interpret the policy as prohibiting them from protected activity under the NLRA.

Do you need more information about this topic or help developing a handbook policy regarding workplace recording? BCN Services can assist you with this or with a supervisory training program. For more information, contact us at 1-800-891-9911.

AliciaFreeman_6679

Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

FMLA, parental leave and medical leave can all be options for life events

Starting and growing your family is an exciting time, and the last thing an employee should worry about is how to take time away from work for life events such as this. Employers should develop a policy before these questions arise.

It is common for employees to assume they will get a certain amount of time, either paid or unpaid, away from work. What a business is required to offer is typically dependent on its size. As an employer, you should be prepared to share this information when an employee announces they are adding another member to the family. The options include: FMLA, parental leave, medical leave or a combination.

FMLA is the federal Family Medical Leave Act, which applies to employers of 50 or more. FMLA requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of time off for the birth or placement of a child for adoption or foster care. FMLA protects the employee’s job and benefits but does not require an employer to pay the employee for the time they are away. If unpaid, employees may be able to use vacation/PTO time or collect from their short-term disability benefit (if applicable). FMLA applies to both parents for the purpose of bonding with the child as well as giving a mother time to recuperate from labor and delivery. FMLA is clearly outlined for employers and can be found online here: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.

The term “maternity leave” was commonly used to describe the time a mother needed off after the birth of a child. The term is outdated, as an employer cannot discriminate against the other parent for the purposes of taking time off. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) also requires pregnancy to be handled as if it were like any other medical leave.

The compromise and appropriate nomenclature is “parental leave,” which is a set period of time an employer allows an employee to be off work for the birth or placement of a child. It is simply describing a period of time, not the medical needs for a woman to be off following labor and delivery. A parental leave may include wage replacement, such as paying part or all of the employee’s wages while off work, or it may be unpaid. Just like FMLA, a parental leave is not required to be paid, but some employers may choose to do so.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently ruled in favor of a new father in a case of parental leave discrimination. This new dad received a $1.1M settlement, and not giving new fathers the same type of leave as new mothers to bond with a child can result in a claim such as this.

Medical leave allows for an employee to be off work for a medical condition. This includes time off after childbirth for a woman who had a baby. Labor and delivery would fall under a medical leave policy, but bonding time is not. The woman’s doctor provides information about the length of time a patient needs to be off of work and this would be handled in the same fashion as an employee undergoing major surgery who is off due to a doctor’s order. Employers may choose to have a medical leave policy instead of offering parental leave, or they may have both.

FMLA is the set of federal regulations, but an employer can always choose to be more generous. If your Medical Leave Policy goes above and beyond FMLA, then your handbook can include just the Medical Leave Policy on its own and not include a separate FMLA policy.

It is surprisingly more complicated when an employer isn’t required to follow a federal regulation and if they also don’t have a policy in place. In these cases, employees in similar situations may, unintentionally, be treated differently. That is considered discriminatory, which is why it is imperative to create a policy and follow it. Having a policy also avoids an awkward conversation when an employee approaches an employer with a leave request.

BCN handles all types of employee leaves for its clients and can assist in policy creation. Please talk to your Human Resources representative and let them know if you have any questions about the types of leaves listed above or any other type of employment leave.

 

KariStanley_6698

Kari Stanley, HR Customer Call Center Supervisor